[FOUNTAIN]Leapfrogging to ChinaHow does a frog move in a pond? It dives and swims with its webbed feet. When it has to move across the surface of the water, it takes advantage of the water lily, a plant with round leaves floating on the surface. Thanks to its bouncy, long hind legs, a frog can jump from one leaf to another. Water lilies are a springboard and a haven for frogs.
“Lily pads” also refers to the overseas bases of U.S. forces. The lily pad bases have been installed since 2003, when U.S. military bases overseas were rearranged. The frogs are the U.S. forces, and the pond is the world. It has been a process of changing the permanent and heavily armed Cold War-era bases into more efficient ones with only basic facilities. That’s why the new type of bases are called a springboard or a station.
The exceptions are the bases in the continental United States, Guam, Japan and Britain. These are hubs from which wars would be engaged. Others are lily pad bases. The ground army would be deployed on a rotation basis rather than stationed for a fixed period. At the same time, all of the bases are bound together in a single network, just as many leaves originate from one root.
One example of the Pentagon’s lily pad bases is Manas Air Base in Kyrgyzstan in Central Asia. It used to be a Soviet airfield, but has been leased by the U.S. forces since 2001. Manas has been crucial for the Afghanistan war, as a fueling and logistics station for fighters and as a base for reconnaissance missions. About 1,100 airmen are stationed here, and the facility is rather small in scale. Manas Air Base is a bridgehead, defending U.S. interests in Central Asia, the arena of competition for resources. In order to check the growing U.S. influence, Russia has installed an airbase in Kant, only 30 kilometers from Manas.
In the post Cold War era, the expansion of bases has been the core of U.S. military policy. Through 2003, the United States had 205,000 troops stationed in 702 bases in 130 countries.
The U.S. military bases prevent terrorism and protect resources and pipelines. From the new conservative point of view, they are the outposts to propagate American democracy.
The relocation of the U.S. forces in Korea to Pyeongtaek is a controversial issue in Korea.
As an extension of the lily pad strategy, it is understandable that the U.S. ground forces want to move to Pyeongtaek.
The new site has a port and is close to Osan Airfield. “Freedom of action” is the aim of the lily pad bases. China can be found if we look further.
by Oh Young-hwan
The writer is a deputy political news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.